According to Dr ZhongXiang Zhang, of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, over 90% of the reduction in energy consumption has been achieved through conservation measures in industry, and is due only in small part to structural changes within industry away from the more energy intensive sectors, as has been previously suggested.

Accompanying the huge growth of industry in China in the 1990s, between 1991 and 1996 the cumulative energy consumption would have increased by 1616 million tonnes of coal equivalent (Mtce) had there been no attempt to implement energy conservation. Instead, however, energy consumption actually increased by only 50% of this figure, producing energy savings of 809 Mtce, a situation rarely achieved by a country at China’s level of development, said Zhang. Around three quarters of this reduction occurred in the machinery (25.8% of the total reduction), nonmetal mineral product (25.3%), ferrous metal (15.3%), and chemical (11.4%) industry sectors, says Zhang.

The Chinese Government’s emphasis on energy efficiency stems back to the late 1970s, and since then it has implemented 23 laws concerning the administrative, legislative, economic and technoloical aspects of energy conservation. In 1990, the National Group of Co-ordination on Climate Change was established, in order to supervise and co-ordinate ministries and agencies in their efforts to address climate change. China signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, ratifying it in 1993. Other measures introduced by the Government include a significant reduction in subsidies for energy consumption, the implementation of nation-wide energy conservation programmes, and the creation of over 200 energy conservation technology service centres to work with the end-users of energy efficient technology.

Even when accounting for a possible 2% overestimation of the growth of China’s GDP, as has been suggested by a number of sources, there has still been considerable cut in energy use through conservation, said Zhang.

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